Forever 21 files for Chapter 11

BY Richard Summerfield

US fashion retailer Forever 21 has become the latest brick-and-mortar firm to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The California-based company filed for bankruptcy protection in the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, listing both assets and liabilities in the range of $1bn to $10bn.

Forever 21 will now begin a process of restructuring. Last week, the company had announced its intention to exit Japan and close all 14 stores of its locations in the country by the end of October. The company now expects to focus on the profitable core part of its operations and shut some, if not most, of its international locations, though its operations in Mexico and Latin America will likely remain open. The company does not expect to close locations in major US markets, though there will be a large number of store closures.

“We have requested approval to close up to 178 stores across the U.S. The decisions as to which domestic stores will be closing are ongoing, pending the outcome of continued conversations with landlords,” the company said in a statement.  The company also said its Canadian subsidiary filed for bankruptcy and it plans to wind down the business, closing 44 stores in the country.

Forever 21 saw its revenue drop to $3.3bn last year, down from $4.4bn in 2016. It expects the restructured company to bring in $2.5bn in annual sales. The company employs about 32,800 people, down from 43,000 in 2016.

To facilitate its restructuring, the company has obtained $275m in financing from its existing lenders, with JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. acting as agent, as well as $75m in new capital from TPG Sixth Street Partners, and certain of its affiliated funds.

“This was an important and necessary step to secure the future of our Company, which will enable us to reorganise our business and reposition Forever 21,” said Linda Chang, executive vice president of Forever 21. “The financing provided by JPMorgan and TPG Sixth Street Partners will arm Forever 21 with the capital necessary to effect critical changes in the U.S. and abroad to revitalize our brand and fuel our growth, allowing us to meet our ongoing obligations to customers, vendors and employees. With support from our key landlord and vendor constituents, we are confident we will emerge as a stronger, more competitive enterprise that is better positioned to prosper for years to come, and we remain committed to delivering the fast fashion trends that our customers have come to expect from Forever 21,” she added.

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